NATIONAL 80km Madison Championship
COMMONWEALTH Games riders dominated Saturday's national Madison championships at Herne Hill, London, on Saturday.
Bryan Steel and Rob Hayles (Team Haverhill-Taylor's Foundry) gained the lion's share of the points to run out clear winners ahead of Simon Lillistone and Paul Jennings (North Wirral Velo) and Paul Curran (Optimum Performance RT) and Chris Newton (Middridge CRT).
All three medal winning teams finished in the same lap, only separated by their points totals of 45, 22 and 14 respectively. Only one other team finished in the same lap - the pairing of former world hour record holder and pursuit Champion Graeme Obree and Spencer Wingrave, last year's Madison champion with Tony Doyle.
It was Obree's first attempt at Madison racing, and the pair put up a fine performance; by the time the championship finished, Obree had mastered the mysteries of hand-slings and was equal to the task of team racing.
While Obree lacked the 'jump' needed in Madison racing, his pure speed did a lot of damage and his efforts on the front of the line showed the back door to many as the race progressed.
But for all that, Obree could not match the track skills of Steel and Hayles who set about establishing their credentials from the start of the 178-lap race.
With sprints every 10 laps the Team Haverhill pair took the first 11 sprints before Lillistone and Jennings managed to take the next three, and the penultimate sprint, before Steel and Hayles moved in to take double points on the last lap.
The only other teams to win a sprint lap were Russell Willams (Geoffrey Butler Cycles) and Bryan Taylor (Bournemouth Arrow) and the Curran-Newton pairing.
After Steel and Hayles had established an unbeatable points lead, the only option open to the rest was to try to gain a lap. But that was easier said than done.
The points battle saw some 'close' riding and chief judge Willi Tarran was quick to hand out warnings as the odd rider took to the grass in an attempt to get through the scrum for the line.
Obree was ready to enter the fray after some pre-race advice from team-mate Wingrave on how to 'change' in the Madison. 'Just put your arm out, but keep your elbow tight into your side, don't try and throw me,' was Wingrave's advice.
After the odd wobble Obree got it right and he was ready to attack. Steaming off the front, gaining 10 metres before Steel and Hayles pulled him back. Then it was Curran, a former Madison champion himself, having a go. He was joined by Hayles and then Obree tagged on before order was restored.
The next attack came from experienced six-day rider Wingrave. He was 30 metres clear and looking for partner Obree, but the Scotsman was not in the right place for the change-over and Wingrave's effort came to nothing.
To make up for that Obree had another go. In his familiar crouch he was off again, but this time it was Curran who latched on. Again it was Hayles and Steel who brought them to order. With 75 minutes of racing completed, only four teams were in the same lap.
With five laps to go, Obree took off again. He kept near the front as all the race leaders jostled for places, and on the line it was Hayles from Obree.
'With my stamina and Rob's speed I knew we were in with a good chance today,' said Bryan Steel. 'We set out to build up a good points lead early on so that we could relax a little.'
'Riding the team pursuit and kilo in the Commonwealth Games was not the ideal preparation for a long Madison,' added Hayles.
Obree, competing in his last track event before riding the Bordeaux Six with Tony Doyle, was happy to have got through his first Madison. 'I'll have to change my position before Bordeaux,' he admitted. 'I would never get round a 250-metre track.'